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Carpal Tunnel: A Leading Cause of Occupational Injury

It may surprise you to learn that carpal tunnel is one of the most prevalent occupational injury in the United States. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve at the wrist becomes irritated. This nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a small space that is called the "carpal tunnel," and it controls the feeling and movement in your thumb and your first three fingers.

The median nerve can become irritated through repetition of a variety of different types of jobs, according to occupational physicians. Some of the most common occupations where employees suffer from CTS include:

  • Computer-based workers
  • Data entry operators
  • Musicians
  • Assembly line workers
  • Jackhammer and chainsaw operators
  • Laborers and construction workers

The symptoms one may experience when suffering from carpal tunnel are tingling, numbness and pain of the hand and wrist area. Many people first notice this pain when they are trying to sleep and realize how bad their hand is feeling.

Most of the time, CTS can be treated without surgery. However, there are times when surgery may be necessary. If there is decreased strength in the thumb, severe sleep loss due to pain, or your symptoms do not improve over time, surgery may be required.

If you are beginning to feel this wrist pain and believe it may be caused by repetitive motion at your job, you should let your employer know immediately. Document the time you spoke to them and what was said in the conversation.

It may be necessary to discuss making changes in your position with your employer if wrist pain becomes serious. For example, are you using the proper keyboard and is it in the correct height position? Would your employer be open to you taking occasional breaks from the repetitive job and doing another task while you rested your wrists? Hopefully, your employer will accommodate your situation and the CTS will heal. However, there are times when this does not occur and you may need to report a workers' compensation injury with your employer about an occupational injury like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Read our related article on reporting injuries in the workplace to learn more.

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